Last year there was no federal budget enacted and gridlock was the order of the day. But fiscal year 2014 is different: negotiations over the holidays resulted in a $1.1 trillion spending bill, signed by President Obama on January 17 that funds the federal government through September.
The new federal budget brings good news for mental health and substance use disorder treatment. When sequestration – the automatic spending cuts imposed last year – is taken into account, overall MH/SUD funding has increased. For example, the Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment (SAPT) block grant, which pays for the lion’s share of publicly funded treatment, receives a $19.5 million increase to $1.820 billion. But relative to the cuts forced by sequestration, that looks like a $110 million increase over fiscal year 2013.
The law eliminates the tap on the SAPT block grant, which the White House included in the proposed budget to be used for educating providers on how to bill. This was money – 3 percent of the block grant -- that would have been taken from treatment services, but the Senate appropriations committee was strongly opposed to it.
There are also increases for mental health programs. Overall, the bill includes a 13 percent increase for funding for mental health services, according to David Shern, Ph.D., president and CEO of Mental Health America. The spending package includes $1.1 billion for mental health programs, which is $136 million more than the 2013 enacted level. The National Institute of Mental Health will receive $1.45 billion, the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) will receive $1.03 billion and SAMHSA will receive $3.63 billion.
The bill also provides $1 billion for the Prevention and Public Health Fund. Of that amount, $831 million is available for Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and $62 million for SAMHSA, with $35 million directed elsewhere in the Department of Health and Human Services.
The Community Mental Health Services Block Grant received an increase of $24 million over fiscal year 2012 – which is used as a comparison since there was no enacted budget for fiscal year 2013. The increase is for programs that provide early intervention services for people with serious mental illness.
The budget includes also funds several elements of the “Now is the Time” initiative, an effort led by President Obama in the aftermath of the December 2012 shootings in a Newtown, Connecticut school, including $15 million to fund grants for Mental Health First Aid training. The Primary-Behavioral Health Care Integration initiative received $50 million in FY '14.
President Obama will release his proposed budget for fiscal year 2015 in late February or March.